The Disturbance of a Temporal Doppelganger

There were repercussions when I met my doppelganger in space; when I see temporal doppelgangers on the same day there’s a similar disturbance in the force…

Happy in the Past

I had a late and very enjoyable night last night and this morning I overslept. That meant two things – the first is that I’d miss my usual train. The second is that instead of tiptoeing out of the house to get my train whilst my little girls were still sleeping, they were now awake and asking what I was doing.

And what I was doing, was explaining to them that I wasn’t able to get my usual train, but one which leaves half an hour later. I could wait a few minutes extra at home instead of at the station, and “It’s handy isn’t it sweetie because I can give you a cuddle!”

You’ve guessed it – by the time I’d disentangled myself from a forest of arms and legs and questions ranging from “Why is the sea wet?” to “Why are two things sometimes different?” I’d missed yet another train.

The Present

So eventually I’m sitting on a train which is departing an hour later than the train I was originally aiming for.

OK, I’ll make the most out of a bad situation and seize the moment and catch up on some reading. I pull out Buckyball by Fabien Roy. Well, I say pull the book out, but I actually mean my phone. I’ve only a PDF copy and my ereader hasn’t arrived yet, so I’m stuck to reading it on a phone. It’s a brilliant read, but a terrible experience; one which is full of welcome distraction, and I look around the train carriage frequently.


I’ve written before about my doppelganger, but now I notice that I’m witness to a similar but slightly different phenomena. Sitting just opposite me is someone else’s doppelganger – but an earlier version of him!

He’s reading his newspaper with a fold-up bicycle by his feet (in rush hour – recall that this is Holland…) and appears to be a younger version of one of my colleagues by some 20 years. Darker hair, sitting more upright and wears thinner glasses. He looks healthier than the creature I see sitting crouched in the office.

They dress the same; smart shoes, jeans, shirt and a jumper, and the fellow on the train also has that certain air about him which says “This is how I do things; it’s how I want them done and it’s how I’ll always do them.”

And judging from the appearance of my older colleague, he’s right – at least for the coming 20 years or so.

My colleague is classic passive aggressive. With retentive tendencies. I see no wedding ring and I wonder if living alone boxes us in our lifestyle – certainly I’ve found that living with my wife and kids I’ve made a lot of compromises in how I do things.

Happy in the present

Happy in the present!
Dressing up with my daughters – this is not my usual look (honest!)

I wouldn’t have it any different. If I had my time again (like in Buckyball, Groundhog Day or Replay) I’d do it the same way to end up again where I am now. I don’t mean to be conceited by insinuating that my life is ‘perfect’ but rather to say that I’m very happy with it as it is now! πŸ™‚

A couple of movies spring to mind where characters have a glimpse or experience of an alternate version of their life (“Sliding doors” 1998, with Gwyneth Paltrow and John Hannah; “The Family Man” 2000, with Tea Leoni and Nicholas Cage). Especially in the latter of these movies the question is raised about how would things be done to achieve certain changes in your life.

On a personal footing, the question I’d face following my own reinsertion back into the time steam would be whether I chose to live through the crap bits again to bring about the same knock on effects leading up to my present in the here (Holland) and now (on the train)?

Would I have missed last night to catch my train? Or given up my cuddles and precious moments with my daughters in the morning?

No, I don’t think so.

What will I do tonight / tomorrow morning?

I don’t know. But for now, looking at the temporally static doppelganger sitting opposite me on my late train, I realise that I’m happy with the consequences of my decisions that I’ve made in my life. I’ve made the best ones I knew how to at that time without any fore knowledge of the future. I mean, that’s all I can do, right?

Perhaps they’re not the right ones but they’ve brought me into a family and a home where I’m blissfully happy!

The disturbance in the (gravitational) force

I hardly ever talk to my colleague so I don’t know him very well. He’s not very approachable but I do hope that he’s equally as happy as I am in his own way.

And I’ll tell you know what’s odd. Today there was a lunch talk where an expert told us about the results of the discovery that gravity waves exist and can be measured. My colleague was there, and I ended up have a chat with him at the coffee machine afterwards. (And it turns out that he’s quite a nice chap!)

Whereas things happen when doppelgangers meet in space, I can’t help thinking that when I see the temporal doppelgangers on the same day, that there is undoubtedly a disturbance in the (gravitational) force…


Header image credit: Nicolle Rager Fuller (

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Temporal Disentanglement

We’re deeply entangled in space and time – but if people can’t deal with different cultures or with people who change location how can we expect to deal with time travelers?

On 23 June 2016 the UK voted to leave the European Union. When I say “the UK”, I should clarify: statistics show that older voters were more likely to vote to leave the EU and opt for a regression back to pre-European times than voters younger than 49 years.

Temporal origins

Presumably the elderly are more tied up with the(ir) past and olden day values than younger generations who may not have been around much before the eighties or who have experienced and remember happier more recent times.

And of course being mortals, older people have less ties with the future than younger generations who will see more of it. The descendant argument applies to both age groups.

To be clear: I don’t intend the above to be ageist (that would be nonsensical) but to point out that differing age groups have differing strengths of ties and attachments with different temporal origins.

Spatial origins

And for the immigrants in the UK who are cruelly beaten, mocked and despised in these post brexit racial attacks (carried out by lunatics across all ages)…they are permanently reminded of their spatial origins, however long ago they (or their ancestors) shifted their spatial location.

What's worth more - experience with age, or from location?
Is time passed more important than space traversed? (Image source:

My youngest daughter is growing up and is well out of her baby years. But bring on the sound of a baby’s cry and both my wife and I are brought straight back to those times of disrupted nights, continual nappy changing and bottle feeding.

In much the same way, reading about these post Brexit racist attacks brings me right back to the eighties – those British days where I was bullied at school and shouted at in the streets just because my skin colour is different from the local majority. It seems that like it or not, I have a tie with the past, albeit in part to my spatial origins.

(And I should publicly add here, that despite a few tongue in cheek comments about the Dutch, my experience with them over the past 7 years or so has been very good! It’s a turn of the tables – in Holland I have an English origin; in England I was made to feel I didn’t.)

Politics has had its time

It is evident that campaigns for and against Brexit needed to address how people perceived their ties with the past and their hopes for the future (however the ratio of the balance of duration between their past and their future is weighed). Apparently for some, disentanglement from their past was difficult and called into question the essence of their being.

Anyway, this is all fickle politics – whether it’s correct or not is a separate issue.

Entanglement with time

It is easy to understand that people have ties with their country of origin and culture etc., but less prevalent are the temporal ties. How tangled are we with our past, or to a deeper level, to time itself?

Many time travel mechanisms in time travel fiction refer to the flow of time as being like a river (The Anubis Gates by Tim Powers is an excellent example); a river in which we are bound, for example, in some sort of marine vehicle which by design is attached in some way to the water (so to time, in this analogy). Being able to travel in time means separating from the river. To disentangle ourselves from time.

Or there are more biological forms of time travel where our bodies are intrinsically linked to some ethereal omnipresent time cloud or something. Just as we’re immersed in our usual 3 spatial dimensions we have a ‘place’ or point in time from which drugs (or a virus) can extricate us.

Drugs which alter our physical existence in one way or another sound harsh – a more softer approach (arguably…) is hypnotism (for example, in Richard Matheson’s Somewhere in Time) where we play with our perception of time, or take on a more spiritual awareness of it around us. Mental techniques can be enough to separate the body from time, with memory being the simplest example.

Time slips through our fingers but we can’t escape it. We think about it, and are ruled by it, and apparently in some books (and on some blogs! πŸ˜‰ ) we can’t stop going on about it!

entanglement in time
Image: Gabriela Barreto Lemos

In Bonnie Rozanski’s The Mindtraveler there were a series of experiments which lead to the conclusion of a temporal entanglement – I remember it because shortly afterwards I read an article in New Scientist which reported evidence of quantum entanglement.

I’m expert here, but entanglement isn’t simply the joining or merging of two otherwise distinct entities, but something much deeper which an intrinsic union of inherent

I’m struggling to find a good example, but perhaps this comes close: The birth (or actually, the news of an impending birth) transformed me into a father. Whether my kids are with me, or separated from me, I still feel and think as a father. I’m entangled with them because when I think about them I smile. The fatherhood entanglement, once created, cannot be uncreated.

And so it is with quantum entanglement; we don’t simply exist in a moment (or spread of moments) in and across time, but rather we’re both embedded within time and time in us. And separating the two may not be easy.

Some argue that one reason why we like swimming is because we’re tangled with our evolutionary past when at some stage some bright fish suggested a walk on the beach instead of swimming along-side it. Apparently we want to return back to our watery roots. We’re tangled in both time and space.

Will we ever be free from time, or are we destined to be forever ruled and tangled up by it? Or do we just leave that to the politicians and voters?

Brexit racism against refugees.
If we can’t deal with people who change location how can we deal with time travelers? (Image source:
If people can't deal with different cultures how can we expect to deal with time travelers?
If people can’t deal with different cultures how can we expect to deal with time travelers? A halal butchers in Walsall that was firebombed. Photograph: DD Maxwell/FameFlynet UK (Image source:

So perhaps the time travel dream is going to be a tough nut to crack. If we can’t get on with freeing ourselves from spatial origins, how can we deal with doing the same with time?

Feel free to comment, but please let’s keep it time travel! I’ll remove political / racist / ageist commentary. Time binds us all – or does it…?


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Temporal (re)assignment

Cartoon strip highlighting the problem of temporal paradoxes.

temporal (re)assignment
Image reproduced with permission from

Seems like there’ll be a temporal (re)assignment in any case…


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Time travel in nature

Sceptics of time travel might argue that it’s an abomination of the natural laws that are already in place. But time travel does appear in nature…

Sceptics of time travel might argue that it’s an abomination of the natural laws that are already in place. As Einstein said “The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once”.

That might be true…but this cartoon strip of “The Snippers” I found in the Dutch newspaper “The Metro” last week may have hidden truths…

Nature's fast forward
Nature’s fast forward. From “Snippers” cartoon.

Rough translation: Why does it seem with sparrows as if someone pressed fast forward?

So that’s birds. Not quite time travel, but victims of time’s accelerated passage.

A few weeks ago I saw a phenomenon which had me puzzling over time’s role in nature. We’re often lead to believe that everything has it’s time – it’s just that I thought that everything had it’s time at the right time.

Spring. The time for daffodils and crocuses to sprout and inject a blast of colour after the blandness of a cold and white winter. All well and fine, except these Dutch daffodils found themselves a little temporally displaced.

Daffodils in January
Daffodils in January

…poppies for drugs, and Dutch daffodils for time travel?

Flowers in the snow
Flowers in the snow

Well anyway. So much for the high speed sparrows – in nature everything is in balance. Let’s finish off with the slo-mo sloth!

The sloth: natural slow motion
The sloth: natural slow motion


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A Trip on a Train

Now that we’re in summer time I departed for work on a train which left – relatively speaking (and even though it turned up late) – an hour earlier than the same time last week.

I found myself sitting on a journey which previously, morning by morning, had got steadily brighter. Now, like a temporally backward hiatus, I was thrust back into darkness, at least for the first leg.

It’s fairly dark in the mornings at 7 am (summer time) at this time of the year in Holland, but as the vagaries of light reflecting upon the outside world and hitting my dreary retinas became clearer, I was shocked to see the ground covered in a frost of icy but magical fairy tales, and trees draped in ice like spectres of the night.

What had happened to the daffodils and tulips and other spring-ey kind of things I had glimpsed only days before? Had I finally traversed through time on a train, upon which I have had seemingly endless musings about time travel?

It wasn’t too long of a wait until I realised what I was looking at: white blossom and the usual dreary white concreted grounds of Holland. So no time travel (which regrettably in this world of predictability, comes as no surprise).

A couple of stations further on a gentleman seated himself opposite me with the assistance of a white cane. His gaze was distant, though I’m sure that his sight was indeed incredibly – if not infinitely – short-sighted.

Most other passengers (and despite my third person observation of them I include myself here as one of them) were using vision to gauge our traversal across space all the while passing the time. Our visually impaired travelling companion was not optically equipped to keep himself so-occupied in this way.

What was going through his mind I had no clue, but surely his mind was not as cloudy as his vision; he had navigated the platform, the train doors and the passage way to find his seat by the glass door separating the populated carriage with the entrance hall of the train all without the assistance of onlookers and those with whom he was embarking the carriage.

How does a blind man see the world in his imagination? Against what observation or perception does he measure his journey, be it the distance towards his destination, or marking the passage of time, the punctuation of which is so necessary to alleviate the boredom of doing nothing?

A piercing whistle dragged me from my thoughts and from those of the blind man back to the train which lurched suddenly to a stop.

Shortly a lady sporting too much make-up and armed with five small paper bags hooped in the crook of her inner elbow burst through the door. She was evidently relieved to not have missed the train which, even as she was bustling down the aisle, was accelerating away from the station at a pace to make up for lost time.

The glass door flung to behind her, beginning to trace the path along its predestined and extravagant pendulumous swing, seeking its final resting point of closed equilibrium at the end of its trajectory. Without turning his head, the blind man reached out his arm and let the door fall back on his hand, fingers slightly splayed.

As he allowed the beveled edge of the door to gently caress his hand and come to a silent rest, I came to realise that perhaps this soul whose perception of the world was won through audio means, and maybe an as yet unknown further sense, was more aware of space and time than the rest of us are.

I continued reading my book, The Time Machine. It was a reread, and though the words on the pages were invariably the same as the first time I had read it, they had struck my consciousness and I found that they spoke to me now with a deeper clarity than before. I put my book away as the train neared my station. I glanced out of the window and caught sight of the rising sun which was still low, a perfect disk of orange through the mist.

Trip on a train

Unlike the large dull red future sun of Wells’ Time Machine, my sun would live to see – or indeed create – another day. I rose from my seat, though not as majestically as either the sun of the future of the present. I followed my doppleganger and stepped off the train, ready to embrace what that day had in store for me.


Outside the temporal box

When I picked up my daughter from school today, she was proudly carrying a ring binder full of drawings and things she’d done over the past week or so. She was very happy until we got home and started showing them off to me, and found that one sheet had not been hole punched.

“Daddy, can we go out and buy a hole punch now?”

“No Sweetie, the shops are closed. We can go tomorrow.”

“Can’t we go yesterday?”

I’d like to think that I’m doing a good job in raising my daughter to think outside the temporal box!

A different temporal perspective

When I was a small child the image of the “BBC test card girl” was a misnomer. She looked like she was old enough to be my mother.

Now that I’m older and a little bit wiser, I can see that the girl is in fact…a young girl.


The image is the same – but she looks younger than she used to, to me, back then.

What has happened in these last 30 odd years? I’m sure that Carole Hersee has aged, yet she appears to look younger, whilst looking the same in the image. And I’m sure it’s not the makeup.

And to confuse things further, here she is more recently..

BBC Test Card Girl Today

There is clearly a different temporal perspective at play here…